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Gippsland Trophy 2021: Aryna Sabalenka vs Kaia Kanepi preview, head-to-head & prediction

Aryna Sabalenka with the Abu Dhabi trophy
Aryna Sabalenka with the Abu Dhabi trophy
FEATURED COLUMNIST
Modified 31 Jan 2021
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Match details

Fixture: (4) Aryna Sabalenka vs Kaia Kanepi

Date: 2 February 2021

Tournament: Gippsland Trophy 2021

Round: Second round (Round of 32)

Venue: Melbourne, Australia

Category: WTA 500

Surface: Outdoor hardcourt

Prize money: $565,530

Live telecast: USA - ESPN / Tennis Channel

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Aryna Sabalenka vs Kaia Kanepi preview

Aryna Sabalenka will have her sights on winning a fourth title in a row as she begins her campaign at the Gippsland Trophy in Melbourne. The fourth seed faces the 94th-ranked Kaia Kanepi in the second-round contest on Tuesday.

Sabalenka has been the most in-form WTA player over the last couple of months. The Belarusian has built a career-best streak of 15 match wins, which includes titles at Ostrava, Linz and Abu Dhabi.

Having ended 2020 on a high, Sabalenka showed that she had no intention of slowing down in the new season. At Abu Dhabi, the 22-year-old blitzed her way past sixth seed Elena Rybakina, ninth seed Maria Sakkari and 15th seed Ons Jabeur to take the title at a canter.

In six matches Aryna Sabalenka dropped just one set, and her success propelled her to a career-high ranking of No. 7. Many believe the 22-year-old is a genuine contender for the Australian Open crown.

Kaia Kanepi
Kaia Kanepi
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A former World No. 15, Kaia Kanepi hasn't been able to make much of an impact on the big stages of late. In 2020, the 35-year-old managed to win just two matches at the Slams.

But Kanepi flourished big time on the ITF circuit last year. The Estonian emerged victorious in three out of the four ITF $25,000 events she played. In fact, out of the 17 matches that Kanepi won in 2020, as many as 15 came at the ITF level.

Kanepi started the 2021 season on the back of a 10-match unbeaten run, and she extended it further with a three-set win over Astra Sharma on Sunday. The 35-year-old clearly has momentum on her side, but Aryna Sabalenka would be a different challenge altogether.

Aryna Sabalenka vs Kaia Kanepi head-to-head

Aryna Sabalenka and Kaia Kanepi have never crossed paths before, so their head-to-head currently stands at 0-0.

Aryna Sabalenka vs Kaia Kanepi prediction

Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka

At one point Kaia Kanepi was trailing Astra Sharma 1-6, 3-5 in her first-round match, but the feisty Estonian dug deep to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

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While that may have boosted her confidence, the effort also meant she was on the court for 2 hours and 10 minutes. At 35, Kanepi would likely feel the effects of such a long match, and that won't stand her in good stead against a fresh and well-rested Sabalenka.

Besides, Kanepi won't get too many second chances against the ruthless Sabalenka. Her serve wasn't too solid against Sharma; she committed 10 double faults and got only 51.9% of her first serves in. Kanepi's return game also left a lot to be desired, as she could convert only six of her 12 break-point opportunities.

The stats are not encouraging, especially since she is set to face an opponent who can blast anyone off the court with her raw power. The determined Sabalenka won't hesitate to pounce on her chances if Kanepi makes any slip-ups.

Prediction: Aryna Sabalenka to win in straight sets.

Published 31 Jan 2021, 22:02 IST
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